Hope fading for scores buried in Indian landslide

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NEW DELHI -- Hope is fading of finding scores of people still missing three days after a landslide in western India buried a village, killing at least 76 people, an official said Saturday.

Intermittent rain over the past few days had turned the site of the landslide into a swamp, making it extremely difficult for rescue workers to locate bodies in the mud, said Alok Awasthy, the official in charge of the rescue operation.

Wednesday's landslide engulfed Malin village, located in Pune district of Maharashtra state. Rescue workers have pulled 76 bodies from the more than 15 feet of heavy mud and debris that submerged the village.

Awasthy said at least 88 people were missing.

The search, however, will continue for another two days, he said.

Volunteers helped prepare funeral pyres and a mass cremation for some of those who died in the disaster was held Friday evening after the rain stopped for a while.

Landslides are common in the area during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September.

The area around the village has been deforested extensively, increasing its vulnerability to landslides. Similar deforestation and environmental damage have caused floods and landslides in other parts of India.

Pune district is about 95 miles southeast of Mumbai, India's commercial capital.

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